Genomic clocks and evolutionary timescales

Trends Genet. 2003 Apr;19(4):200-6. doi: 10.1016/S0168-9525(03)00053-2.


For decades, molecular clocks have helped to illuminate the evolutionary timescale of life, but now genomic data pose a challenge for time estimation methods. It is unclear how to integrate data from many genes, each potentially evolving under a different model of substitution and at a different rate. Current methods can be grouped by the way the data are handled (genes considered separately or combined into a 'supergene') and the way gene-specific rate models are applied (global versus local clock). There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches, and the optimal method has not yet emerged. Fortunately, time estimates inferred using many genes or proteins have greater precision and appear to be robust to different approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Phylogeny
  • Time Factors